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Topic Subject:The Silver Chalice
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Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 07-12-00 05:11 ET (US)         
This is the third part of the story of Wendolin, Thoren and their companions.

Cast of Characters
Benson - Benson has traveled extensively never staying in one place to long but often revisiting many of the places he passes through. He prefers to be in nature and tends to befriend animals wherever he goes. He is tend to be a loner and even in when traveling with groups tries to find way to spend time alone. He does not make friends easily but is very loyal if you gain his friendship.
Eme-Redser - the current alias of Wintersong, the Elven Queen. She is in the guise of a mysterious stranger. She wears trousers, a long shirt, and a long, bulky cloak. All of her clothing is muted green and brown. She carries a large bundle of things, all wrapped in a mysterious fabric that no one has seen before. She rides a beautiful horse, one that is warm cream in color, and whose mane and tail are a rich chocolate color. The horse's name is R'edaine, the meaning of which is undisclosed at present. Eme-Redser is an unknown entity at present, and her guise of The Elven Queen is also unknown at this time. She has the ability to disappear at will, and her other diverse talents will be revealed as the story progresses.
Gillandra - High Priestess of Coranmaire. Mysterious character - fights for good over evil. Known throughout the realm for magical healing and spiritual abilities. Soothing voice. Wear's a deep purple and white gown, and long silver cloak, showing her coat of arms on the back. Rides a silver-grey mare named Misty. Worships at the temples of Eir. Also has a pack-horse, carrying essential supplies.
Jayhawk - Wandering minstrel, troubadour, tall (6'4") slender, dark haired, sea green eyes, that seem to be able to change colour. Plays a 12 stringed lute, with fair competence. Has travelled the realms extensively and has an incredile knowledge of lore and myth. Some of his travels have been with Chunky. There may be more to him than meets the eye. Rides a black stallion by the name of Aran.
Lysette - Daughter of King Damodred, who sold her in to slavery to a cruel traveler she came to know as her "master." Has survival skills like any road-wise child, but is relatively innocent at heart. During the Quest for the Cloak, she spent 5 years in an alternate future and has now set her mind on marrying Thoren.
Rides Leeta, her chestnut mare, given to her by Thoren.
Thoren of Torvald - Norseman from the Lodge of Torvald. Torvald came into his heritage as his father was slain on the Towerfields. When he entered Torvold he found out his throne was usurped by Mordred, who's champion he defeated in single combat, thus regaining his throne.
Gruff and somewhat belligerent exterior hides a thoughtful, sometimes sensitive nature. Skilled in long sword, battle axe, short bow and knife. Unusual ancestry. Some say he is descendant from Roman and Norse stock. Rides Vorth, his Norse-bred stallion.
Wendolin - Clonmaire County Palladin. Somewhat of a mystic, experienced traveller, adventurous by nature. Friend to kings, noblemen and townsfolk of all races and types, but prefers the company of travellers. Fights for Right. Wears a long black dress made out enchanted material,
which may look like a fine gossamer web, but is in fact as hard as steel. Wears a ruby-red cloak, with deep purple & gold trim. Jet black hair - dark eyes, pale face. Also wears a magical ring on her right hand - amethyst in colour, it seems to glow when danger is near. Rides a gold coloured horse named Whispering. Close friend of Gillandra the High Priestess. Has prowess in sword and mace, and carries a golden shield.

The Quest

The Silver Chalice has been liberated from the evil mage Zordemon the Black[/b]. The party is now on it's way to the Candscent Creek in order to find the Sacred Springs with which water, once poured on the Chalice, the Hill People can be restored.

Wendolin's New Map

Quest Part 1

Quest Part 2
Updated character descriptions...

[This message has been edited by Jayhawk (edited 07-13-2000).]

AuthorReplies:
Caesar Ishaius
Pleb
posted 09-25-00 09:58 ET (US)     126 / 147       
Ronen took out a small piece of fabric and whiped his sword of blood. Then he returned it to it's place and walked around the shop a bit. He saw strange potions he never seen before colored with green, red, blue and even dark purple-red, as if someone had captured the sunrise and put it into a bottle. He took the bottle and saw there was no label. He turned to Thoren to ask him what was this potion, but Thoren was busy with something else. One of the dying elves was talking to him... "You might have won here Norseman, but you will never win. Our Lord (is that right?) will kill you and destroy this relam..." he cleaned his throat from blood and died. Benson looked at Thoren and saw fire in his eyes. Thoren approched the door and opened it...
Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 09-25-00 16:03 ET (US)     127 / 147       
Thanks MRed and Jayhawk for your kind words on the demise of my hard drive. (Appreciate the complements on the story posts, too.) Normally I would have posted an episode to this story over the weekend, but my home system was still in the midst of repair and it was not possible. I'm glad to report that after much learning and trying the system is rebuilt and available once more.

Ish: I sure do continue to play CaesarIII. In fact, my hard drive crash cost me the completion of the military career path I was slowly following. Last night I re-completed the first three scenarios (albeit two were very easy tutorial scenarios)in 2.5 hours. It took me that many weeks the first time I tried the game. That's one way to confirm you've learned a lot about how to manage the game and reach the goals set for you.

____________________________________________________________

Thoren opened the door slammed shut by the dark elves only to see the Minstrel standing in the street with deep concern in his eyes and Lysette clinging to him in fear. Relief flowed through Jayhawk when he saw that Thoren appeared bloodied but unharmed. Lysette let loose a cry when she saw the blood on Thoren's hands and arms, released her grip on the Minstrel's arm and ran to Thoren tears streaming down her face. Thoren comforted her, trying desperately with little success to keep the Dark Elf blood on his arms from soiling her clothes.

By then, the others were leaving the store. Scratches and bruises seemed to be the only injuries any of them had sustained. Eme-Redser bid each one to allow her to examine the wounds and treat them with her elven salves and potions to prevent festering and encourage healing.

A voice called to them from down the street. "Hallooo! I say again, Hallooo!" They all turned to see who it was that called to them. A young man about Lysette's age was striding down the street. Lysette squealed in delight and to Thoren's surprise left the Norseman standing there as she ran to greet the stranger. Thoren felt a little sting of jealousy as the girl warmly hugged the young man, who was equally delighted to see Lysette and to be greeted by her.

Her arm entwined in his, Lysette hurried the young man to join the others. Eme-Redser remembered him first. "Randorian, it is wonderful to see you again." Thoren relaxed immediately, as did Chunky and Benson. They remembered the apprentice sorceror from their adventure before the castle of Zordemon...

The town of Gardath was abandoned when the Dark Elves appeared, Randorian told them later after they all found and refreshed at the local inn, also abandoned it seemed. He stayed within Zordemon's former stronghold to avoid the creatures who had overrun most of Safaervold. He had learned more magic, enough to keep them at bay for the time being. It seemed they weren't particularly interested in Zordemon's castle; but they were intent upon holding Gardath. Now Randorian understood why. A few transport spells and that is how he arrived just after the final battle with the Dark Elves and the companions.

Would he again travel with them? "No, I cannot. I must pursue my training. My how you seem to have changed so quickly, Lysette," he said almost in the same breath as he used to decline their invitation. She smiled with fond rememberance of the years the very much older Randorian would share with her preparing the teenaged Lysette for her role in the defeat of Zordemon. But she knew that he as yet had no understanding of his future role and wouldn't believe her even if she tried to tell him of the events. She conjured up a blush instead and hoped the subject would change. It did... sort of.

Randorian had another thought and turned to Thoren. "You are not married yet to this fine lady?" indicating Lysette. The young apprentice sorceror knew of the closeness between the two.

Thoren himself now turned a little red with embarrassment. "No."

"And why not?" Randorian asked. Lysette focussed her penetrating hazel eyes on Thoren's blue eyes intensely interested in the answer.

"Because I haven't had a moment's peace since the fall of Zordemon, that's why!" replied the irritated Norseman. "And it's not for lack of trying."

Ronen saw the frustration and anger seemingly rising in Thoren and thought it would be a good time to change the subject. "Sorceror, could you tell us the purpose of these potions?" Without waiting for an answer, Ronen drew out of his pockets the bottles with various colored liquids inside.

Randorian's curiosity was piqued so he leaned across and accepted the four bottles from Ronen, examining each in turn. One was blue; the next was red; the third was green and the last was deep purple-red. He removed the stoppers from each and sniffed at the contents.

"I may tell you what I think they are; but you will only truly know what they are when they are used. I warn you, I could be very wrong and these could be something entirely different and far deadlier than I think. Regardless, I shall try my best to inform you..."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-26-2000).]

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 09-26-00 05:19 ET (US)     128 / 147       
Civis, on time travel... This is always a hairy subject, but in my opinion Randorian doesn't realise anything that will happen, because it never will happen.
The episode with Lysette took place in a time-line that was cut-off once Lysette was sent back to change the future and thus preventing teh sequence that got her to where she was at that time.
In a way she made a loop and knotted off one branch of possibilities. The time-line where Randorian helped her, was only happening when Zordamon had won the battle for his keep. Now that she's prevented that from happening,. that particular line is no longer the main branch where time flows through.

I'd wanted to tell you this when you added that last bit set in Randorian's castle after Lysette departed. With her departure, Randorian actually gave up that whole time line.

Am I still making sense?
Disclaimer: This is just how I think time travel, loops and alternative futures work, where time is a river flowing forward.

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 09-26-00 05:35 ET (US)     129 / 147       
"It would seem the potions would be used for restoring life and health to those that are wounded. Some of these potions can be used to hide, but I can't tell readily which is which.
I would advice you to be very careful with them."

They made camp in the inn as evening had approach on cat's feets, sneaking up on them as they had moved west. The night was calam and those taking guard duty did not find anything amiss.

Morning broke in a profusion of colours as the sun tore the cloudcover apart. A light fog was still covering part of the ground as they left the inn. The minstrel had stacked a number of coins on the counter as payment for their use of supplies.

As they came out they saw Eme Redser sitting, her face upturned towards the light, slowly chanting. A soft thrumming sound could be heard in the distance, approaching rapidly. Hands reached for weapons.

The Elven queen stood and spread out her arms as a R'edaine followed by half a dozen caprisoned horses appeared round the corner. The horse neighed happily and the travellers recognised their own mounts as having followed the elven horse.

They monted gladly and set of into the swamp. The morning air was cool and lush growth bordered the path they followed. The minstrel, with Chunkly riding next to him, was giving directions. The air grew fouler as bubbles of marsh gas burst, trees swathed in moss and lichen grew more numerous. Bright orchids drooped like fire from bare tree limbs. All around them sounded insects and the songs of untold frogs and toads.

The trees thinned and on a small hillock, covered with a dense growth of shrubs and rosebushes rose before them. On top of it the ruins of an abandoned fortified manor could be seen. It's walls were decayed and clung with vines. The roof to the main house had collapsed, but the main tower still stood, rising some 20 yards above the remains of the manor.

Caesar Ishaius
Pleb
posted 09-26-00 09:05 ET (US)     130 / 147       
Jayhawk- huh? lol I just kidding. It makes sense that something that would happen in the future didn't happen because what made it to happen didn't happen! I mean if someone walked and bumped into a something and broke his head and then fell in love with the nurse in the hospitle and had kids, he wouldn't know her if he didn't hit what made him brake his head... or something... I think.... I am going to write something very short because I don't know about this castle and I can't promot the story.

Ronen looked at the tall tower and then turned to Jayhawk and asked "What is this castle?" with a puzzled look

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 09-26-00 22:05 ET (US)     131 / 147       
Jay: Gave some thought to your "time is a river" concept. You have a point. See edits entered into my earlier post below. BTW, nice touch leaving coin for the proprietor. Had thought of that myself and would have done the same if no one posted that action. An angel is an angel is an angel... Cheers.

____________________________________________________________

"Absalom's Tower," replied Jayhawk. "It is where we must enter to seek the Sword of Absalom. Zordemon defeated Absalom in battle early in his conquering of Safaervold and then himself searched for the Sword. Absalom hid it deep in the tower, maybe even below its foundations, before he succumbed to his battle wounds. Zordemon searched in vain; then in frustration and revenge he savaged Absalom's manor."

Ronen persisted in his questions while the others listened intently. "Why did Zordemon not destroy the Tower?"

"Because Zordemon knew that destruction of the Tower would only bury the Sword more deeply. He had every intention of returning some day and beginning anew his search for the Sword."

"What stopped him, Minstrel?"

"A knife and a young woman," the Minstrel replied with a nod to Lysette. Her face reddened slightly at the mention of her name and the role she had played in the demise of Zordemon. "Ask her about it sometime; or ask Thoren. He can tell you. He was there too."

Ronen looked at them with curiosity mingled with awe. He had heard of the the battle to the North but never dreamed he would be in the company of those who first hand had opposed Zordemon and defeated him. He would indeed ask... when time and circumstances permitted.

"Shouldn't we be getting to the Tower now?" Benson interjected.

"Indeed we should, Archer. Let's proceed." Jayhawk led them to the Tower entrance and they dismounted, gathered their necessities and entered. "Which way, Jayhawk?" asked the Norseman.

"Down I expect, Thoren. There are the stairs. Light your torches and follow me." Led by the Minstrel, the companions walked down stone stairs moistened by condensation of water, and here and there stained with the green of fine moss. At the bottom of the stairs was a door that opened into a small hexagonal chamber. In the center of the chamber was a sarcophagus. Its lid was in place and the dust gathered on it suggested it had lain untouched for years.

But along the walls each hexagon face had been opened and stones removed by chisle. Fractured stone and broken mortar lay on the ground. Nothing was visible behind the opened hexagonal faces. The small chambers were empty.

Yet the sarcophagus remained undisturbed. "There is magic at work here, I think," said the Minstrel. "Elven magic..." He turned to Eme-Redser. The solution lay with her he suspected, just as he suspected the Sword of Absalom lay somewhere within the dead hero's sarcophagus.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-26-2000).]

MRed94
Pleb
posted 09-26-00 22:16 ET (US)     132 / 147       
Eme-Redser nodded to Jayhawk, and, closing her eyes, began to empty her mind to all but the thoughts she was receiving from an unknown source.

She stood that way for a long time, then, opening her eyes, reached into her bag and withdrew a small purple globe. The globe was glowing softly.

Lysette poked Thoren, who turned and looked at her. Lysette indicated the ring that Eme-Redser wore on her left hand, which was glowing softly in response to the globe.

Suddenly, the globe floated up into the air, and started to move toward the sarcophagus. It hovered above the runic inscription carved into the lid.............

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 09-26-2000).]

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 09-27-00 05:41 ET (US)     133 / 147       
The carving on the lid of the sarcophagus started to glow in the same light as the globe, The letters seemed to wink on one by one, shaping the words, hovering a few inches above the tome. When all words were visible the carven gem in their midst cracked. Dust fell of it's six faceted sides and showed the deep amethyst colour hidden beneath the rock.

The gem started to pulse slowly and a tendril of light trickled down from the globe still hovering above it. The trickle touched the top facet and grew stronger and brighter. Then the gem seemed to explode and sent out six rays of light towards the walls around the sarcophagus.
The rays fractured on hitting the walls and turned them into mirrors. Each ray split into two and shot out towards two sides creating a bright six-sided star of light centered the tomb. The lid of the sarcophagus started to rise slowly.

The droning noise raise in pitch and as it was about to turn earspliting it broke of and the star winked out. The lid was now floating a few feet above the coffin. In it lay the remains of a tall man garbed in ancient armour. On his breast, the skeletal hands wrapped around the hilt lay a sheathed bastard sword.

"Ladies, gentlemen, I think we have found ourselves a sword." the minstrel said as he gently unwrapped the fingers from the hilt. He took out the nearly four foot length of steel and handed it, crossgaurd first to Thoren.

The Norseman looked at the bloodstone carved like a rose that formed the pommel and reverently accepted the blade. He with drew the blade slightly and looked on a mirrored surface, deep and dark as the night, with a scattering of stars visible in it's depths.

As they watched Thoren and the sword, the misntrel tapped the lid which slowly decended back uppon the tomb.
"My thanks, o Absalom, " Jayhawk murmered, "when we have finished this quest we will return thy weapon to thy side."

They followed Thoren upwards to the light with Jayhawk trailing. Eme-Redser dropped back beside the minstrel and spoke softly.
"That's a void-blade from the Demon Wars, isn't it?"
The minstrel nodded, then answered a smile curving his lips.
"Appropriate, don't you think?"

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 09-27-00 22:12 ET (US)     134 / 147       
***Think "Ride of the Fire Mares" theme music from the motion picture KRULL when you read this post***
____________________________________________________________

Eme-Redser smiled in reply. "Very much so," she said.

Outside of the tower, the Elven Queen put finger to mouth and blew a soft beckoning whistle. R'edaine appeared from the nearby bush along with the other horses, including Aran, Vorth and Leeta. The mounts belonging to Chunky, Benson and Ronen followed soon after.

Thoren reverently found an appropriate place by his saddle to tie and properly stow the Sword of Absalom placed in his care by Jayhawk. Suddenly, Thoren straightened up and starred for a moment with unfocussed eyes across the land of plains and marsh before them. Then he seemed to regain sight and self. The Norseman looked at Lysette with a strange expression. The words he spoke surprised and distressed her as well. "Forgive me, my beloved, but what I must do, must be done." He walked to her and kissed her lovingly on the cheek, then he turned to walk to the Minstrel. They spoke.

As Thoren walked away the Minstrel said to himself in a voice no one else could hear, "It has begun..."

Did they really see the Minstrel's eyes turn gold, then green when Thoren spoke to the Minstrel? Or was it bright blue or cyan? Later, some who saw attempted to recall but could not. Maybe it didn't happen. Memory clouds and fades those who survived told each other. No matter, the fact of their travel remains the fact...

Thoren mounted Vorth without a word spoken. They all mounted singly or in pairs after him. The Norseman turned in his saddle. His eyes mirrored blankness but his face radiated determination and purpose. He raised his right hand then turned back in his saddle to face forward. He brought his hand down quickly, forcefully. Vorth leaped when the stallion felt the firm, but undamaging pressure of Thoren's heels in his sides. The others put heel to side and their mounts followed behind his: Lysette, then Eme-Redser, Chunky and Benson, Ronen, and behind them all, the Minstrel.

The ground passed under the horses' hoofs. Foot after foot, yard after yard, kilometer after kilometer, league after league. Ever quickening... faster... no, faster again... faster yet... ever faster... impossibly fast. "No... horse... can... do... this...!" they would have cried out if unnatural speed hadn't stolen their voices. Yet the horses maintained their steady gallop, never slowing, never changing... never tiring.

I don't understand, screamed Lysette's mind; but her body thrilled to the speed of their journey as land and hill flew by. The young woman's hands held tightly to the reins; she rode upright unaffected by the wind that rushed by her ears, her shoulders and arms, her ribs and slender waist. Her hair flowed back behind her like a sun browned banner in the wind. She saw her Norseman just ahead, driving his horse with equal aplomb. Her heart sang to her soul... I will follow him anywhere... I will... I will...

On they rode all seven, through the dusk, the night and the dawn. The sun crashed into the horizon behind them and disappeared. Stars coursed across the sky like meteors then faded as the sun reappeared once more, this time before them. It seemed like only moments before that Thoren had raised his hand and they all had begun their ride. Now, he raised his hand once again and began to slow his horse. As fast as speed was achieved so was slowing and then a final stop. It seemed the land did the stopping and not the horses.

Lysette looked down at Leeta and saw no evidence of tiredness, no froth, no horse's perspiration. The animal was tossing its head, fresh, seemingly ready to gallop again. She turned in her saddle to look back at the others. They were glancing about just like her... except the Minstrel.

Jayhawk was slumped over on his mount, body and head laying on the strong neck of Aran. In the thrill of the ride, none had noticed the bright golden glow underlying the flashing in his eyes. He had ridden behind them all, unseen and unnoticed.

Thoren turned his horse and tapped it with his knees. The horse walked slowly towards Jayhawk. As he passed by the others he said in voice that did not sound like Thoren's at all, "We are at the edge of the stronghold of Ragnhild, where the mountains converge in Lisendonaire. To save the Five Realms we must invade and destroy her in her lair. We need not kill elves, or any creature, except as necessary, other than Ragnhild. Destroy her and the Lord Ashkane shall have lost his only weapon in this world. My Sword shall see to His return to the Void."

Thoren reached Jayhawk's side even as the Minstrel began to stir. The Norseman laid a hand on Jayhawk's shoulder. "My friend of old, we all need rest in our own way. Here we rest, soon we meet the challenge before us." They dismounted together. Thoren stayed in their midst, but alone.
____________________________________________________________

Author's Note and Hint: The Sword of Absalom and the hero's spirit are inseparable.

MRed94
Pleb
posted 09-27-00 22:59 ET (US)     135 / 147       
WOW!!! Good thing I stopped talking when I did......Thanks, guys, for taking it and running with it. Keep it up. I could read your parts of the story all day....
Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 09-28-00 09:48 ET (US)     136 / 147       
Thoren lifted the sword from his saddle and as he sat down laid it across his knees. His hands seemed to caress the weapon, while his eyes grew distant.

As Lysette sat watching him, it seemed the cast of his features had altered, if ever so slightly. The young Norseman looked haughtier than ever before. The bones in his face stood out more, yet below it still lay the features of the man she loved.
She shivered, at this moment she could almost fear him.

Jayhawk returned to the camp, his hair wet from a bath in the river. He looked refreshed. His eyes caught the girl's and sat down next to her.
"Don't worry, child. He's fine. It's just that this kind of weapon doesn't let it wield itself easily."
Lysette offered him a brittle smile.

The minstrel reached over for his lute and started playing. The notes shaped an old, old ballad. Eventhough his lips were moving Lysette couldn't make out the words, yet the song was both sad and triumphant. It made her sit up more straight and she could see it affect the others in the same way.

Then to her surpise Chunkky started to sing, his voice a pleasant bariton, although a bit rough at the edges. Jayhawk, raised his voice and the tones mingled with his friends. They sang of a country filled with moors and glens, of castles perched on rocky outcrops, where ghosts haunted and heros fought. Of an evil that had laid the country to waste, but that was pushed back at great cost.
They sang of the joy of life and being amongst the living, of friends not lost as long as memory kept them.

The last stanza faded into the night and a last waterfall of notes tumled from the strings of the lute.

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 09-28-00 10:00 ET (US)     137 / 147       
I won't be online tomoroow, but will try to add a bit more during the weekend.
Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 09-28-00 23:16 ET (US)     138 / 147       
In the morning as the sun suggested its arrival by illuminating the very edge of the horizon, Jayhawk (up early as usual-so thought the others) noticed Lysette leaning against a tree lost in thought.

The Minstrel made sufficient noise when approaching her to ensure she would not be alarmed. They greeted each other with the usual morning pleasantries.

"Jayhawk, what is the power of the Sword of Absalom?"

"The power comes from the Void, wherein it was formed," answered the Minstrel. "The bloodstone connects it to this world, the blade itself is the passage into the Void. Whatever or whoever it should strike and penetrate, either by impalement or by slashing, is cast into the Void."

"Does one die if struck by the sword?" asked Lysette.

"Not necessarily. The Sword itself does not kill; but if the victim is already mortally wounded by some other weapon, then death can come whether here or in the Void."

"Is the Void an evil thing?" Lysette persisted in her questioning of the willing Minstrel.

"It is neither good nor bad. It simply is... That is all, Lysette. It simply is."

"If trapped there, can one escape from the Void?"

Jayhawk pondered this question a moment longer than the others. "Yes, Lysette, it is possible. There must be three things present for escape to occur. One is a strong, sincere desire to traverse the barrier between the Void and here; the second is possession of powerful emotion that seeks to build not destroy the object of its focus; and lastly, there must exist a second person in the Void who possesses like mind and like emotion. Only then is escape from the Void possible for one or both."

"Do you know anyone who has escaped from the Void?"

"Yes, lady of many questions... The last I knew to have escaped was the very man after whom the great Sword is named... Absalom... and his wife. She who was mercilessly imprisoned and then murdered by Zordemon. Now you know why Absalom fought so hard against Zordemon and in the end even in death achieved his revenge by succeeding in denying the sorceror possession of the Sword and its power."

"Yes, Jayhawk, I do see. And thank you... I must go now. I see that Thoren is awake and preparing for the day. Bless you and your kindness, Minstrel."

Jayhawk watched her walk away. She is a blessing in her own right, thought Jayhawk. To all of us here and to those to come. Lonliness sneaked its way into his soul once again and melancholy followed soon after. The truly wonderful among them are here and then they pass, such is the fate of mortals... Knowing them and having them become only memories is the eternal punishment for having the gift of immortality.

Some time later, Thoren and the companions began the climb towards the lair of Ragnhild. At the entrance to her network of caves and caverns, Chunky, Ronen and Benson took the lead. Thoren followed. Lysette and Eme-Redser stayed towards the rear protected by the remarkably calm Minstrel.
Thoren knew the women were the most safe by far of them all.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-28-2000).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 09-29-00 21:14 ET (US)     139 / 147       
A movement to their side! Elves!

Chunky and Ronen intercepted them. Only two. One died instantly as Chunky's sword found its heart. The other was knocked down by the hilt of Ronen's sword. Dazed, the elf lay there, unsure of where he was.

Eme-Redser made her way quickly to him. She reached down and slapped him hard across the face. The pain roused the Dark Elf from confusion. "Ouch, woman-elf, that hurts!" the Dark Elf said.

"More of you will hurt than just your horrid face if you don't tell us the truth."

"What do you want to know. I'll tell you... Then you'll let me go?"

"We surely won't if you lie. Tell us, how many of Ragnhild's minions are in this cavern?"

"We two (he looked over at his dead comrade)... Uh, myself and 5 others. They are Ragnhild's guard. The rest were sent two days ago to attempt a new assault on Torvgold and Lyshovar. They are not due back... if they come back at all."

"The battle goes poorly, does it?" asked Eme-Redser.

"Yes, too many of my brethren are gone. There is talk of revolt. She becomes more vicious and uncaring each day. It seems a Norseman has somehow become her obsession. And then there is her Lord. A vile creature, cold... Who is that blond man behind you; he seems familiar."

"The Norseman," said Eme-Redser. "Tie this cretin up." She looked at the Dark Elf one more time. "Pray we return to free you."

"But you said you would let me go!"

"True," replied Eme-Redser. "But I didn't say when."

The miserable elf was left trussed up in the tunnel as the companions pressed on. Lysette guided them from behind. She remembered the way from the time she and Thoren were captured then led out for execution. Thoren followed wordlessly. His face was more drawn and creased than before. If not for his blue eyes, blond hair and gold ring in his ear, Lysette would not recognize him anymore as Thoren.

The transformation is nearly complete, observed Jayhawk wordlessly. It is the spirit of Absalom in Thoren's body who walks with them now.

Unexpectedly, Thoren stopped and pointed to a dark opening in the tunnel wall. "There," he said in a voice no one recognized as Thoren's. "She seeks to fool then trap us from behind. She is there." He drew out the Sword of Absalom. The others shifted their swords from hand to hand and prepared to rush the tunnel.

Jayhawk's eyes flashed gold, green, then aquamarine. The tunnel was suddenly bathed in light. Chunky, Ronen and Benson charged forward. Thoren followed. Then the Minstrel and the ladies.

The branching tunnel curved and suddenly they were inside a large chamber. Before them were the five elves who guarded Ragnhild. And behind them was the scourge of the House of Torvald, Ragnhild herself...

____________________________________________________________
Do it, Jay or MRed!

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-01-2000).]

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 10-02-00 06:12 ET (US)     140 / 147       
As you realised by now, I didn't make it on the Friday...
The light fragmented of the myriad rockcrystals caught in the cave's ceiling and gave the scene back in an unearthly light.

Lysette stumbled to a halt when her eyes caught Ragnhild. Thoren's adversary had changed. She looked fragmented, as if her skin had broken and then had been roughly glued together. A pale, faintly green flame shone through cracks that opend and closed on her skin. Her hair looked like spun, grey iron and her eyes...her eyes were dead and black as the void in the sword that Thoren carried.

As Chunky, Benson and Ronen engaged the nearest elves, Thoren's bare blade swept through the one that tried to block him. The elf's shriek broke suddenly and his body faded into nothingness. The clang of his sword as it hit the ground was almost deafening in the sudden silence.

Ragnhild spread her hand and a flock of large bats whirled towards the Norseman, who seemed somehow taller than before. The sword sucked the winged creatures to itself. Two shapes grew from the rocks at her feet, large and ungainly they lumbered towards Thoren.

Thoren's wrist moved and the sword sped towards the creatures arm, however they golem did not fade and the sword only lit a gash on the things wrist. Material flowed up along it's legs replenishing the wounds the blade scored.

Chunky dispatched his opponent and grabbed a large brazier to use as a pike and batter bits of the golem, hoping to give Thoren an opening. Golden fire sizzled over his shoulder as the elven queen attacked the woman that had killed her friends, so long ago.

With magelight scattering through the room and energybolts sizzling as Lysette luanched a magical attack on the nearest golem, non of them noticed the coalescing shadow behind Raghild throne.

The shape grew and started to blot out the lights, it's form soaking in the light and energy flares, growing with each hit. The eyes that opened in the horrid face seemed mirror void, light suddenly broke from foot long claws and a soft rumble turned into maniacal laughter. Faces looked up in fright, one of the golems swiped a blow at a distracted Benson and send him flying into the wall. A slow smile, if it could be called so, spread on Ragnhilds face.
"Behold, " her voice sounded, "behold Ashkane!"

The dreadlord reached out his claws ripping into Ronen's opponent and draining the elf to a husk. Ronen's blade flicked out and a 'ting' reverberated through the cave as if a bell was struck. Several spells hit the body as Lysette and Eme-Redser refocused their attention to the dreadlord. Half were absorbed while the rest poured of the demon's body like rain of a boulder.

"No"
A voice sounded through the chaos in the cavern and a soft golden light, like the morning sun appeared in the back of the cave. A quick backward glance showed Lysette a figure of light where the minstrel had been. Raven wings beat backwards as the angel swept forwards, blocking the dreadlord's nails from ending Chunky's life. His other hand shot out to graps Ashkane's other wrist, he was an instant to late and the claws scored a great gash on his side.

Eme-Redser cast a silver net of pulsating energy entangling Ragnhild. As the dreadlord's minion struggled to get loose her attention on the golems faded and while Chunky and Ronen battered down the one, Thoren dispatched the other.

The net constricted more, starting to squeeze the unlife out of Ragnhild, draining her energy off towards the ground. Lysette added her power to that of the elven queen and watched with gritted teeth as the green fire started to fade from Ragnhild's body.

Jayhawk was still holding the dreadlord at bay, but the golden glow around him was fading, dark blobs had appeared, like rot eating the light away.
"Absalom!" he cried out.

The warrior that was Thoren and was Absalom vaulted up the throne, ignoring the last faint thrashings of Ragnhild as the last of her energy dissipated. With a single motion, holding the hilt with both hands he stabbed the bastard sword in the dreadlord's back and cried out as Ashkane's substances flowed in the sword, shreds of it scored his hands, burning through the heavy leather gloves he wore.

Ashkane's roar of anger hanged in to a scream of what may have been frustration, or may have been fright. Then all the light went out.
Thoren dispatched

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 10-02-00 16:23 ET (US)     141 / 147       
Thoren dispatched Ragnhild with another thrust completing the work begun by Eme-Redser and Lysette. He winced as he withdrew the sword from his second target and finally dropped it to the floor as his burned and blistered hands could no longer hold its bloodstone tipped hilt. He sat down heavily beside it, bent over and staring at his hands and the shreds of leather clinging to now oozing skin.

Lysette ran to Thoren to see how he was. "No. See to Chunky and Benson first," he said to her through clenched teeth and in that unThoren-like voice. Meanwhile, the tall, slender figure of the Minstrel had reappeared in place of... of... What was it they saw? The unexpected appearance of the creature with... wi... They were black, uh, no grey... Never mind the color, what were they... No, it was only the Minstrel helping somehow... And soon that was all they could remember: The Minstrel helped somehow; and Jayhawk never said anything otherwise later on when the questions from the group began.

But one person knew the answer as he sat on the floor of the cavern. Absalom/Thoren knew of the Angel and what service he performed. While the pain in his hands troubled the silent Thoren immeasurably, the spirit of Absalom speaking through Thoren noted the passing of the witch and the dreadlord and Jayhawk's involvement.

As Jayhawk approached him and then sat down next to Absalom/Thoren in his borrowed warrior's form, Absalom's spirit spoke to Jayhawk in a voice only Jayhawk could hear. "My thank's to you Great One for your assistance, but I must say it may have been at some future unavoidable cost to you. I know you are commanded to not interfere in the matters of mortals as you have told me so yourself. You violated that command when you engaged Lord Ashkane in combat."

Jayhawk looked at Absalom/Thoren and then at the companions each attending to the other as needed. "It seemed the most correct thing to do at the time. I have... I have become somewhat attached to these mortals and, well... it seemed it was what I should do."

Absalom/Thoren winced as a new series of pains shot up Thoren's arms from his hands. When it subsided he spoke to the Minstrel again. "Be assured Jayhawk that what you have done deserves a reward greater than what you should have done." The spirit of Absalom caused Thoren's eyes to peer down at the sword at his feet then raise them to view the Minstrel once more. "Carry this for the Norseman while he heals and fulfill your promise to return us to our resting place. Thank you, my old friend, and goodbye."

"Rest well, Absalom, until another time," replied Jayhawk. Thoren's features began to change and become more recognizable as the spirit of Absalom left him and returned to the sword at the Norseman's feet. Thoren looked about with a puzzled expression. "Where are we, Minstrel? What has happened? Why do my hands hurt so badly?" he asked.

"Patience, Thoren. In a moment Eme-Redser will apply a salve to heal your burns. I will tell you all. Rest now."
It was Lysette who came to Thoren carrying a pottery jar filled with unguent. She applied it gently, softly, watching for the least sign of pain. If he winced in the least, Lysette would cease and wait until the spasm of pain subsided, then she would begin again... gently, softly.

Chunky, grazed by the dreadlord's claws before Jayhawk's action prevented full contact, drank the red liquid in the collection of four bottles carried by Ronen. It was the right choice. He was instantly healed and in good spirits once more. Eme-Redser chuckled to herself. She knew it was the red one all along. There had never been any mystery. She had learned this from a hero who had fought and defeated some demon named "Diablo". The Elven Queen had hoped not to have to use the liquid, but circumstances had dictated otherwise.

Benson was well, only a bruise or two resulting from his meeting the wall with his body. Ronen was hardly scratched and was busy looking about the chamber for momentos.

Later that day Jayhawk told the Norseman all that had happened, from the swift ride and the climb to the final battle with Lord Ashkane and Ragnhild. "They are gone, the Minstrel told him. Your lands are free once more." Only Lysette seemed to have doubts about the future: two entities; strong emotions; like minds... She hoped she was wrong and the Void would hold them there forever.

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 10-03-00 03:59 ET (US)     142 / 147       
Civis,
I think in this case 'right' was on my side as those rules should have applied to infernal creatures like Dreadlords too. Besides, all I did was hold him, you were the one that pushed in the pigsticker

The minstrel rode to the fore, the bastard sword was hanging from the saddle's pommel and looked somewhat incongruous to Thoren. His hands still hurt, though. He didn't want to admit it, but he felt a strong sense of relief that the sword was no longer near him. The strangest memories were his, fights which featured Zordamon, of which he was sure they had never happened. A beautiful, auburn-tressed woman and a great pain in his heart whenever he thought of her.

The Norseman shook his head trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind. He reached out tentatively to Lyssett. She touched his fingers and smiled. At least some things hadn't changed.

They left the pine forests of the Heart's Range and set course for White Ferry. As the approached civilisation, they could see the scars left by the war. Burned out farmhouses, torn fields and a lack of people. Then when the crested the hill above White Ferry they were met by an armed band of Norse warriors.

Thoren recognised his advisor Gorsten among them and rode rapidly towards them. Gorsten looked incredulous as he recognised his liege lord.
"My lord...you...you're alive! We thought you were lost to that devil Ragnhild" he cried out in relief.
The spoke for a while when Gorsten said.
"If you are rested, we must ride to Torvold. Your people need to see you."

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 10-03-00 15:55 ET (US)     143 / 147       
Jay: Pigsticker? You called it a pigsticker? I believe there may be some Keepers of the Void who would not appreciate having their finely crafted weapon with its specially hewn blade referred to as a 'pigsticker'. Besides, you can't blame Thoren. The poor guy was possessed at the time and not in his right mind. Now the Minstrel on the other hand... Something tells me some of us are in need of a long, long holiday from the world of the 5 Realms.

____________________________________________________________

Thoren turned in his saddle to look at the Minstrel. "Jayhawk, do you desire to accompany us to Torvgold? Lysette and I would like you to be present for the wedding ceremony."

The Minstrel saw the hopeful look in Lysette's eyes and the open look of friendship in Thoren's expression... and felt simply miserable about what he must say. "My friends, I cannot. I am called... And too, I must return Absalom's Sword to its resting place as quickly as possible to eliminate the risk of its falling into the wrong hands." Unconsciously, Thoren looked down at his healing hands when Jayhawk said this.

"We will surely miss you, Minstrel," said Lysette. "And be a little less happy on that day."

Jayhawk looked down at the mane on Aran's neck. He didn't have the courage that day to see for long the look in Lysette's eyes. "I must leave. Chunky as well. What we are to do will require us both. I am truly sorry. Please think of me as being there in spirit; for I assure you I will. Then later, when what I must do is done, I will return to Torvgold to see how you fare."

Thoren sighed in resignation then said, "You shall always be welcome in our Lodge, Minstrel and you as well, Chunky. Don't be away too long, my friends. Fare well and safely."

The remaining companions and the Norsemen watched Jayhawk and Chunky guide their mounts up, over and down a nearby hill, then disappear from sight. Little was said among them on the ride to Torvgold. Each was locked within his or her own thoughts and rememberances, or on the events to come.

The wedding ceremony would be just a few days hence...

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-03-2000).]

MRed94
Pleb
posted 10-03-00 18:32 ET (US)     144 / 147       
Later that night, when the group made their camp for the evening, Eme-Redser motioned for Lysette to follow her a distance from the campfire.

The two women made their way to the river's edge, and sat on a log.

Eme-Redser looked at Lysette, and, taking her carrier bag on her lap, reached into it and withdrew a small parcel wrapped in gossamer silk.

She handed the package to Lysette, and Lysette, with a questioning glance at the Elven Queen, opened it.

Her eyes grew wide, and an expression of wonder and joy filled her face.

She held up the object, which had a subtle glow about it. The simple tiara gleamed in the moonlight........

Eme-Redser said, "Lysette, as the Elven Queen, I give this to you with the authority I hold. You are the heir to my throne, as you are the only living member of the royal family besides me to survive."

Lysette, with tears running down her face, didn't know quite what to say about this.

"Only as a Princess of the Realm would I allow you to marry Thoren. You now hold the title, Her Royal Highness, and Thoren, as your husband, will also carry the title. But the power will remain in your hands," Eme-Redser told her.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 10-03-00 22:34 ET (US)     145 / 147       
Lysette impulsively leaned across and hugged Eme-Redser firmly, warmly. "I shall honor all that the Power is and represents. Thank you, my sister."

Eme-Redser, unelven-like, wiped a blue-tinted tear from the corner of one eye. She said nothing more but rose to rejoin the others in their camp. Near Thoren she paused, and as he looked up and smiled at her, she impulsively bent down and placed an affectionate kiss on his cheek. "You had best treat her well, Norseman," was all that she said. Then Eme-Redser sniffled ever so slightly and returned to her place by the campfire.

Lysette appeared at Thoren's side immediately afterwards and sat down. She had witnessed the exchange that had occurred between Thoren and the Elven Queen and Eme-Redser's kiss on Thoren's cheek. Lysette was neither disturbed or surprised. Thoren, on the other hand, was befuddled.

"What was that all about?" he asked, confusion dancing across his face.

Lysette smiled to herself and said, "Oh, nothing."

Thoren's confusion deepened. "Nothing? What do you mean nothing? I never saw her behave like that before. I simply don't understand."

Lysette drew her petite form up to its full sitting heighth. "Thoren, there is something you will have to learn and understand beginning right now. Whether human or elf, we
women cannot ever be understood, especially by our opposites. Just accept us as we are and all will go well for you, I promise." Then she winked at him and smiled. The others in the camp quietly laughed. Thoren's confusion shifted towards amusement.

Ah yes, Thoren thought to himself. This woman may be a greater challenge than any he had met before. He was also far less confident of the outcome.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-03-2000).]

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 10-04-00 09:11 ET (US)     146 / 147       
While the wedding preparations in Torvgold were getting to their climax, Chunky and Jayhawk decended into Abshalom's tower. The only light seemed to emanated from the the minstrel and was tinged a dusky gold. The angel had dropped the glamour and the gold light showed te too sharp cast of his features and the greengold of his eyes. His friend carried the void sword, cradled in his arms.

They reached the tomb and the angel spread his hands wide calling a globe of the same golden light into being above the carved lid. He accepted the sword and threw his wings back as the light pierced the six panels and the coffin's lid rose.

Barely tangible a shape slid from the sword into the tomb and made the body sit up and reach out it's hand to accept the void sword.

"My thanks, Abshalom." Jayhawks's voice sounded like chimes in the space of the tomb.
"No thanks needed, old friend" The voice had no origin, but the two others could clearly hear the smile inside the words. Then the lid sank down in it's stone niche. The light faded and the two of them were alone again.

Outside the angel wrapped his glamour back around him and once more looked the part of a minstrel. He looked at Chunky as they mounted.
"It seems our task is done here."
Before them a narrow road appeared in the gloom, it's surface seemed to sparkle in the last rays of the sun.
"...and it seems we are needed elsewhen."
Chunky chuckled
"No rest for the wicked it would seem"
Jayhawk smiled as they motioned their horses forwads.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 10-05-00 22:51 ET (US)     147 / 147       
Days and weeks passed as the countryside in Torvold and especially around its capital, Torvgold, repaired itself through the labors of nature and man. Preparations for the wedding were finally complete.

Benson the Wanderor, a distant cousin of Thoren's as it turned out, was sitting with Lysette going over the list of those who had been part of the Companions from time-to-time. They would all be present they promised, except for one. Lysette was reading down the list to make sure all were accounted for. There was Wendolin the Paladin; Gillandra the Healer; Eme-Redser the Elven Queen; Chunky the Swordsman; Ronen the Young Paladin; Randorian the Apprentice Sorceror; and... and...

"Well, Benson, I guess that's all I need to set places for at the table," said Lysette. "I don't think Jayhawk will be here. Chunky says the Minstrel insisted that he, Chunky, shouldn't miss the occasion; but Jayhawk himself said he couldn't be here due to pressing business in the Northwest. I wonder what has happened there... Oh well, I guess Thoren and I will have to be content with the Minstrel's promise to be here 'in spirit'."

Still a man of few words, Benson said what all were thinking. "He will be greatly missed."

____________________________________________________________

WEDDING DAY IN TORVGOLD

Thoren waited nervously near the High Priest at the Great Oak in the field before Torvgold. This field brought back unpleasant memories to the Norse warrior and now Lodge Leader. It was good that his marriage should occur here. It will replace the dark memory of The Challenge with the bright memory of the day of his union with Lysette. She has been most patient, Thoren thought. She only needed to be patient a short while longer and her wait will end.

Even now, the anticipation was growing among the gathered people of Torvold as they began to hear in the distance the whimsical, happy piping of the flute players who were first in the procession passing through Torvgold's gates. Then followed the flower maidens carrying woven baskets filled with scentfull flower petals.

Now came a processional group filled with representatives from the youth of the land. Ten pairs of children, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years of age, one boy paired with one girl. There was no giggling on this occasion. Nonetheless, the older girls were seen to take quick, appraising glances at their same age yet still boyish escorts. The boys hardly noticed. Thoren found amusement in these antics. Not much changes, he thought. He remembered his own participation in processions of this sort and his being oblivious in much the same way. Was this the first step in the ultimate conquest? If so, the conquest happens before the conquered knows it... But he really didn't care. Lysette's conquest was complete and he was totally and happily resigned to that fact.

The children were followed by six mature women each dressed in their land's finest traditional costumes and carrying bouquets of flowers. And then... yes then... He saw her at last. Stepping lightly with small steps came Lysette wearing the beautiful white and blue accented dress she found in the bazaar in the Necromancer's city and purchased for her as her wedding gift by the Minstrel.

The Minstrel... Why couldn't he have been here. It would have been so much more complete. It seemed ages ago that their first meeting began in less than friendly discourse. Thoren always regretted his harsh words, telling the Minstrel "he knew no such person as this, this Civis Romanus" and "to attend to his instrument while he (Thoren) finished his dinner". But those were different times and the murder of his brother was still fresh in his memory. He was pleasant to no one then, except to young Lysette. Was that when her conquest of Thoren began? Most likely.

The procession continued until Lysette was standing by his side and they both turned to see and hear the High Priest. Admonitions were issued. Duties were recited. Blessings were pronounced and given. Now vows were to be exchanged.

Between the field and the sun, high in the clear blue sky, the air seemed to waver, then shimmy, then blur and spin. A brilliantly illuminated oval about 7 feet from end to longest end formed and then melded into a tallish, slender figure with brightly shinning ebony wings. The black of the wings shined so brightly it was as if black were white itself. The figure was clothed in a robe of snow white silk that seemed to glow with a silent aura. The figure was positioned before the sun, yet its brilliance appeared brighter than the sun itself. But almost no one noticed...
Their minds were cloaked so none would see and only two would know... only two.

Thoren and Lysette exchanged their vows of eternal love. Then they looked at each other as if to say, "Do you feel something... something different than just a moment before?"
Lysette looked at Thoren, a happy tear moistening the corner of each eye, "The Minstrel... he's here in spirit... just as he promised. I feel it..."

"Yes, Lysette," said Thoren with a smile. "I feel it too."

Thoren confidently and lovingly lifted the veil from Lysette's face and placed a kiss on her lips to seal their pact. She responded with a kiss in kind. Then they turned to face the gathered Norse, united in marriage at last.

There but unseen, the Angel looked down upon the gathering and upon Thoren and Lysette. He said in a voice sounding like the sweetest notes a musician could form, "Thoren and Lysette, may you both be blessed with long and happy lives. May your children be many, strong and forthright. And when we meet again, let it be in a place where the Light eternally shines bright." Then smiling with shared joy, the Angel began to shimmer and fade back into the part of the sky from whence he had come. But before he disappeared completely he softly said:

"Civis, my friend, I have kept my promise to you... Your bloodline is in the best of care and will continue... Rest easy now within the Light. I have an eternity of adventures for you to pursue and will return to you with the next."

Then the glow that was the Angel's winked out leaving the sun alone to shed brightness on the joyous happenings below.


THE END


[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-05-2000).]

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